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Kate Hawkesby: What Luxon did right in his State of the Nation, was to remind us of all the wastefulness of this government

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Mon, 6 Mar 2023, 7:10AM
 Photo / File
Photo / File

Kate Hawkesby: What Luxon did right in his State of the Nation, was to remind us of all the wastefulness of this government

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Mon, 6 Mar 2023, 7:10AM

I think what Luxon did right in his State of the Nation, was to remind us of all the wastefulness of this government. 

One of the things I worry about is that we have short memories; you know come October 14th do we still remember MIQ, inaccessibility to RAT tests, multiple lockdowns, or thousands of cancelled surgeries? Do people still care – or will they have they moved on by then? 

It’s a fine line of course for an opposition party. On the one hand you don’t want to be seen as too negative or whiney, you have to be seen to offer up new policies and new ideas but it is still important to remind voters why there’s a choice. After all, governments get voted out, oppositions don't get voted in. 

So reminding people of all the billions on consultants, a bloated public service, a cost of living crisis, rising interest rates, woeful education stats, and a ballooning hospital waiting list has merit. I mean we already know, but it’s confronting when you hear it all laid out and that’s what the Nats will be banking on. That and what’s been described as a foray into ‘Labour territory’ with tax rebates offered to parents to help pay for childcare. Family Boost it’s called, and Luxon says it’ll be funded by ‘slicing into the ballooning cost of consultants.’ 

But the bit I liked best about the speech was where he pointed out how aspirational we used to be and how we can get there again. I’ve thought a lot lately about how insular we’ve become in our little atoll at the bottom of the world, introspective and tucked away, happy with mediocre, happy to bumble along, despite outcomes in so many areas reaching worryingly low bars. It’s almost like the lower the bar, the less we care about it. It’s all ambulance at the bottom of a cliff stuff. 

The government waits until truancy and attendance levels are really bad before trying to act. Waits until the Health sector is absolutely diabolical before trying to fix it. Waits until productivity is really low before trying to address it. Waits until immigration settings are bordering on ridiculous before adjusting them. Waiting for public transport to become virtually unusable before we pay attention to it. That seems to be the norm these days.

But the head in the sand, or the ‘no worries’ approach has not worked.

I don’t know how we got so stuck in it. But to hear Luxon talk about becoming the best New Zealand we can be, aiming to be more serious players on the world stage, to want better for our kids, that’s the stuff of aspiration and positivity, and that’s where I think he’s tapped into a lot of Kiwi sentiment, especially in hard working sectors. Calling out the ‘gravy train’ and saying that comes to a stop under a National government, will be music to the ears of hard workers, but disappointing for those enjoying the gravy train ride.

So whether all this resonates with voters will be the true test and I guess a poll will be out at some stage capturing the impact of his speech and whether he’s hitting the right notes. But he seemed relaxed and confident, and though he’s not going to set the world on fire with his oratory skills, as long as he keeps making the right noises, in the right directions, he may be onto a winner. 

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